Before they made it in Hollywood, many filmmakers got their start directing music videos. While directing a music video is not necessarily the same as directing a film, there has always been a transferable skill set. Both media are obviously about using imagery and sound to evoke emotion. Throughout the years, directing music videos has often sharpened filmmakers’ skills before they tackled larger and more expensive projects.
Some of the most popular music videos in history were directed by prominent film directors. Although Martin Scorsese had already directed critically-acclaimed films, he went on to direct the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” With music video credits generally not being very well-known, even famous directors have relatively flown under the radar. Here are eight major filmmakers who have directed music videos.
8 Marc Webb — My Chemical Romance, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
Marc Webb has been recognized as the director of 500 Days of Summer, Gifted, and the Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Before entering the world of film, Webb made a name for himself as one of the best music video directors of the 2000s. Webb directed over five music videos for My Chemical Romance, including “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Helena.” Other artists Webb directed for include Hilary Duff, Incubus, Green Day, Fergie, and the All-American Rejects. In 2017, he directed the music video for “Dusk Till Dawn” by Zayn and Sia.
7 Francis Lawrence — Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
Filmmaker Francis Lawrence might be most recognized for his work on the Hunger Games franchise, but he has more than a hundred music videos under his belt. With his first music video released during the early-90s, Lawrence directed music videos all the way into the 2010s. Some of his most popular videos include Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started,” and Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls).” At the end of the 2000s, Lawrence directed the critically-acclaimed video for Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
6 Tim Burton — The Killers, “Here With Me”
Known for his distinctive gothic and fantastical style, Tim Burton has directed many beloved classics. His filmography includes Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman, and Alice in Wonderland. Fans wondered what a music video directed by Burton would look like, and their curiosity was eventually quelled. Burton was responsible for two music videos for The Killers; “Bones” and “Here With Me.”
5 F. Gary Gray — Dr. Dre, “Keep Their Heads Ringin'”
The Fate of the Furious and Men in Black: International director F. Gary Gray began his career by directing music videos in the 90s. More than 20 years before directing Straight Outta Compton, Gray directed his first music video with “It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube. This led to more music videos and Gray making his film debut with Friday. Gray has not directed a music video since “Super High” by Rick Ross in 2010, but has left behind an incredible legacy. His critically acclaimed music videos have included Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” TLC’s “Waterfalls,” and “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” by Dr. Dre.
4 Martin Scorsese — Michael Jackson, “Bad”
Years after directing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese directed the music video for Michael Jackson’s hit mid-80s single, “Bad.” The full video was nearly 20 minutes long, with a shortened version being less than five minutes. Shot in Brooklyn over a six-week period, the music video for “Bad” was inspired by West Side Story. In the same year, 1987, Scorsese directed a music video for Robbie Robertson’s “Somewhere Down the Crazy River.” Afterwards, however, Scorsese focused on feature films and did not direct more music videos.
3 Sofia Coppola — The White Stripes, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”
A filmmaker of many talents, Sofia Coppola has directed some excellent music videos. Her first was for “Shine” by Walt Mink in 1993. In the following years, Coppola directed videos for The Flaming Lips’ “This Here Giraffe” and Air’s “Playground Love.” She later worked with My Bloody Valentine vocalist and guitarist, Kevin Shields, on “City Girl,” which was featured in her 2003 film Lost in Translation. Coppola has also directed Kate Moss in “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” for The White Stripes. Her last music video directorial credit is on “Chloroform” by French indie pop band Phoenix.
2 David Fincher — Justin Timerblake, “Suit & Tie”
Noted for his expertise in directing psychological thrillers and biopics, David Fincher was the director of Seven, The Social Network, and Gone Girl. Fincher has also utilized his skills in the music video world, directing Sting performing “Englishman in New York” in 1987. Don Henley, Aerosmith, George Michael, Michael Jackson, and The Rolling Stones were some of the artists Fincher worked with. Fincher has directed multiple music videos for Madonna including for the songs, “Vogue” and “Express Yourself.” A major standout in Fincher’s music video history was the black-and-white “Suit & Tie” from Justin Timberlake and featuring Jay-Z. The music video was spectacular and won the 2014 Grammy for Best Music Video.
1 Spike Jonze — Fatboy Slim, “Weapon of Choice”
The director of Being John Malkovich and Her, Spike Jonze, has become one of the most successful music video directors of all time. During the 90s, he directed videos for Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys, Weezer, R.E.M., and Daft Punk. He later directed a music video for Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” which had an immense charm from not taking itself seriously. Jonze was also behind the 2011 music video for Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Otis.” More recently, Jonze directed a live music video for “Woman” by Karen O & Danger Mouse on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.